Jan 19, 2015

The Science Life

For this week entry in the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair, I'm going to talk about our method of learning science, which is really more of a "life" than anything. To read other entries, click on the links at the end of this post!

I don't worry that much about teaching a formal science to my kids. We love science around here and the kids are always "doing" science in some manner or the other. When they aren't experimenting, reading, exploring, or discovering, they are talking about scientific things.

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 My ten-year-old is especially fond of this. He loves to ask me questions about black holes, the Theory of Dark Matter, the possibility of aliens, what various animals eat, and similar topics. He especially loves to discuss and debate Creation vs Evolution.

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 My nine-year-old is usually busy with some insect he has found, or is performing an experiment with vinegar and baking soda, or growing a plant, or working with one of our many science kits. (Wiz Kids are our favorite)

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 The girls generally prefer to read about science topics and they help out with blowing something up, raising a roly poly bug, or searching out information on whichever topic the boys are currently obsessed with.

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 However, I still like to regularly inject some formal science into their lives. Mostly to give them some structure and some inspiration. They tend to get stuck in a rut and occasionally I like to give them something to think about beside insects and outer space.

But. I got tired of paying lots of money for science curriculum to sit on our shelf because the kids found it "too easy" or "boring". So this year, I assigned the older kids to pick a topic and run with it. Kaytie has been researching and studying rain and is currently writing (and illustrating) a report on it. Nate read some books on chemistry, then we reviewed Fascinating Education and he has been faithfully using it every day.

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My plan for Daniel and Abbie was also simple. To read Magic School Bus books and do experiments. But apparently, it wasn't simple enough, or maybe it was too simple, because it flopped. As in, we read half a book and then did nothing else for weeks and weeks. So on our next trip to the library, I picked up Cells Are Us and Janice Vancleave's Human Body for Every Kid. Then I made up a simple plan that looks like this:

Read Cells Are Us
draw cells (use Janice VanCleave's Human Body for Every Kid pg 6 for model)
make an edible cell from Apologia book
make cell model 
Read and do "Breakthrough" chapter from Janice VanCleave's Human Body for Every Kid
Start Personal Person from Apologia book

When we have accomplished this list (so far we have read Cells Are Us) I will choose another human anatomy topic (brains, bones, respiratory system, etc. ) or let the kids choose and make another list similar to this one. 

The reason why I love science is because it is super easy to engage the kids and I don't need elaborate plans to teach them something. 

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Exploring World History Through the Eyes of Scientists by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Exploring Our World With Social Studies by Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue
Relaxed Homeschooling: Science and Social Studies in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Living History by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Classically Influenced, Project Strong, Adaptable Middle School History by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Primary Sources for Delight-Directed History by Susan @ The Every Day of Education
Watching History, or Using Video Courses for Social Studies by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter
Exploring our World: High School Studies of Ancient History, American Government and Economics by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
History, Geography, and Worldview Lessons in Our Homeschool by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
Our Curriculum Choices 2015 ~ Science, History & Geography by Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun
Our Favorites for History, Geography, and Science by Becky @ Milo & Oats
Globe Trotting by Lisa @ Golden Grasses
Around The World by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Bible-Based History Curriculum and Resources by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker
13 Living Book History Series for a Charlotte Mason Based Homeschool by Chelli @ The Planted Trees
Social Studies and Science in Our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm
The Science Life by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
History, Geography Science for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
History Social Studies and Science...VCF Week 3 by Denise @ Fullnest
Learning About our World and History by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Taking the Mystery Out of History and Other Subjects Too With Our Favorite History Curriculum by Amy @ One Blessed Mamma

Jan 17, 2015

Five Quick Photos

This is what we've been up to lately.

Ninja fighting

Nate has been heading up lots of games of Risk.

New haircuts.

Trying out new hairstyles.

Wearing safety goggles because "math is dangerous".

Jan 5, 2015

The Great Grammar Discovery

We have had quite the grammar journey in our family. We started simple, went to rigorous, tried some popular curriculums and some not-so-well known ones, and even experimented with the living book route. In short, we did everything but give up completely. Now these methods and products are not bad ones and I'm not telling you what they are simply because I have no desire to knock. They simply did not work for us. At all.

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As we progressed through the list, I found myself wishing for a little bit of each program, only combined together. I wanted something simple and easy to do (without a lot of writing for my handwriting phobic kids) but rigorous in that it taught the heavy stuff and not just the fluff. I wanted something that incorporated real literature but used hands-on methods of marking up sentences and lots and lots and lots of review. My kids grasp concepts quickly, but easily forget them if they don't use them. Often. So I knew I needed lots and lots and lots and LOTS of review.

First thing we did was drop all grammar in early elementary. I got tired of trying to force concrete brains to absorb abstract concepts and we just stopped. That helped everyone.

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The second thing we did was start using Fix It! Grammar from IEW. I love this program, and, just as importantly, my kids do, too! It is based on a real story, not made-up-for-a-grammar-exercise-sentences. The kids learn one new grammar concept a week. They use that grammar concept each day as they label parts of speech, punctuate, and edit one sentence a day.

It takes us less than 15 minutes a day. They are learning the heavy stuff, it's as hands-on as grammar gets, It uses a real story. And the genius part? It has built-in, uncomplicated, review. When they mark their sentences, they are required to mark or edit every topic they have already been taught. So once they learn about nouns, they use that info every day as they look for the nouns to label in their sentence.

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We use Fix It! slightly differently than it is intended. I only print out the actual worksheets for them. Kaytie, Nate and I sit down all together and I read the information and directions. They read aloud the sentence and define the bolded vocabulary word. We are supposed to look it up in the dictionary. However, they know how to use a dictionary and they already know the definitions for the words we have encountered so far. So they just tell me the definition and we go on. Then they mark their sentences and check them right away. If they make an error or don't mark everything required then we discuss it until they understand. Then they rewrite the sentence and put their stuff away and we are done.

It was a long journey to get here but Fix It! Grammar is a discovery that is worth the struggle it took to find.

This post is a part of the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair. This week's theme is Playing With Words: Language Arts click on the links below to read more entries to the fair!

Building a Foundation of Words by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Language Arts for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

Bible-Based Language Arts Resources by Tauna M @ Proverbial Homemaker

Relaxed Homeschooling: Language Arts in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Loving Books and Words by Sarah@Delivering Grace

5 Language Arts Resources We Love by Becky @ Milo & Oats

Teaching Reading at Home: A Tale of 5 Readers by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset

A More Simplistic Approach to 7th Grade Language Arts by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Language Arts Reading for Delight-Directed Learning by Susan @ The Every Day of Education

How To: Spelling Dictation by Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity

The World of Words in our Homeschool by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Unschooling and Words, Words, Words by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun

Learning With Literature and Language Arts Resources by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road

Words and More Words! by Michele @ FamilyFaithandFridays

Language Arts in Our Homeschool (2014 � 2015) by Laura O @ Day by Day in Our World

Our curriculum choices ~ Language Arts by Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun

The 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Language Arts in Our Homeschool by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life

Loaded Pistols: Virtual Curriculum Fair Playing with Words by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

A Renewed Focus on Reading Aloud by Debra @Footprints in the Butter

Language Arts in our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm

Logic of English Foundations: The Grand Prize Winner of Phonics by Chelli @ The Planted Trees

A Sentence a Day Teaches Grammar the Fun Way by Amy A @ One Blessed Mamma

Tackling Language Arts by Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning

Middle School Monday - Lightning Literature and Composition by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Jan 2, 2015

Happy New Year!

from all those crazy penguins!

Dec 23, 2014

Celebrating Christmas

I'm a holiday fanatic. I love any excuse to celebrate and I like to do it up big. So it was really weird to me that this year, I have yet to catch any Christmas spirit. I don't know why. It hasn't been a hard year, I'm not sad or depressed. There is nothing wrong in my world. But the best I could muster was a hearty "ho hum".

Thankfully, my kids are holiday fanatics. They have taken the reins of their Christmas holiday and have managed to have a great time even without any "mama magic". They have taken responsibility for making sure we listen to Christmas carols, even singing them when needed. They have read Christmas books and pulled out several ideas from our list of traditions. They have plotted and planned giving gifts. Kaytie made several batches of fudge. Nate organized a Gingerbread Village.

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They've worn Santa hats.

They've reminded me to do our Advent calendar. They've enthusiastically wrapped, shaken, poked, and wondered aloud about presents. They've shopped and baked and organized lists. They've eaten candy canes. They've made regular donations of their own money to the "Mall Santas" with their red buckets and little bells. They've watched Christmas movies like Christmas Carol, The Santa Clause, Elf, A Charlie Brown Christmas and a Toy Story Christmas. They helped decorate the tree with Lego and Barbies

And then protected it from sabotage. 

They've talked to Santa Claus 

and to Sofie Claus.

Spent two Saturday mornings helping with Scouting for Food.

And proved that Grandma really DID get run over by a reindeer.

I'm proud that my kids know how to step up and take charge of their own fun! They sure know how to celebrate Christmas!

Dec 19, 2014

Gingerbread Village

My kids read cookbooks. I find this odd, but they do it all the time, especially dessert cookbooks. They often find things in there that they want to cook, so they do, and they do it all, from making a shopping list to cleaning up the kitchen afterwards. 

Several months ago, Nate found a recipe/ directions for gingerbread houses and set his heart upon making them. Other than paying for his purchases and pointing out that some of those things we just weren't buying, I stayed out of the process. I did make a few suggestions here and there, but those were largely ignored. So this was all Kaytie and Nate's work. 

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They tried a pitched roof but couldn't figure out a way to keep it from collapsing, so they finally settled on flat roofs. 

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They spent a couple of hours working on it. And had a great time. At one point Kaytie was laughing so hard she couldn't breathe. This is going to go down in Christmas history as an Event. :)

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Daniel and Abbie came in after awhile and obligingly ate the orange m&ms, broken graham crackers, and extra red hots. 

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The ice cream cones as trees was a nice touch that transformed the whole thing from a collection of houses into a proper village. I suggested they frost them green but this didn't wind up happening.

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Using gum drops as people was Nate's idea, but it was Kaytie who added Santa and his sleigh.

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It takes a lot of hands to decorate an entire village for Christmas!

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Here are the glamor shots after it was all finished and cleaned up. 

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I'm very proud of their creativity, ingenuity, and hard work. It's cute and they had so much fun doing it! 

My favorite parts: the candy cane heart

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and the Cub Scout house with a Cub Scout in front.

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And then the monsters invaded!

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Merry Christmas from all the penguins!

They will be writing their own posts about the village and I'll add links to them when they post, so check back!


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